Man and nature. Earth and sea. Life and death. Father and mother. The Desert Fish trades in these grand mythical dichotomies. The film exists in the realm of the parable, its story divorced from reality and trading instead in deeper, more mythical universal truths. The goal here is much more ambitious than telling one story of a young boy’s quest. The aim here is to tell a story of humanity at a particular moment in time.
The film follows Ahmad (Iman Afshar), a young boy living in the desert with his well-worker father Captain Toufan (Mohsen Hosseini). The Captain has sunk into despair since the loss of his wife, Mahi Khatoon, who was taken by the sea. Toufan blames himself and his increasing greed for his wife’s death; he sees himself as having fallen out of favor with the sea, and his wife’s disappearance beneath the depths as his punishment. Ahmad begins seeing visions of his mother, who appears to him in his dreams as a mermaid. Ahmad begs Toufan to return to the sea with him, where he is sure Mahi Khatoon can still be found. But when Toufan falls ill, Ahmad decides to go himself, aiming to find his mother and help his father regain his health in one fell swoop.